Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Vista Unified School District fully reopened its school Tuesday morning, becoming one of the first in the region to do so, even as San Diego County appears poised to slip back toward more restrictive COVID- 19 tiers as infections surge.

The district, which has 29 elementary, middle and high schools, eschewed the more cautious measures some other school districts are taking, moving into its “Phase 3” reopening plan. The plan, “Vista Classic” allows every school in the district to reopen at full capacity. Parents and guardians will still be able to keep students in “Vista Virtual,” the district’s distance-learning program, if they so choose.

The district said it will attempt to have social distancing as much as possible, but will allow as many as 38 students in a single classroom, so desks will not be spaced six feet apart.

A rally Thursday by teachers and parents at Foothill Oaks Elementary School attempted to dissuade the Vista Unified School Board from reopening Tuesday, with many educators believing the safety measures inadequate.

According to KPBS, plexiglass barriers were not provided to teachers. Instead, they were given PVC pipes and plastic liner to create makeshift protection from students returning to in-person learning.

The reopening of the Vista district comes as the county is expecting to receive bad news about its reopening status with the California Department of Public Health. Rising case numbers could tip the region into the “purple” tier, the state’s most restrictive, as soon as next week. The state’s plan requires a county to post statistics in a lower tier for two consecutive weeks before it is moved down.

Once in the purple tier, though, it must remain there for a minimum of three weeks. Almost all nonessential indoor businesses will be shuttered during that period. This oscillation between closed and open has drawn criticism from businesses owners, who find it difficult to conform to county health standards, which can change week by week.

Officials are imploring San Diegans to maintain vigilance as positive case rates for the coronavirus continue to increase in the region.

“We are now concerned about the trends and we are concerned about the likelihood we could tip back to purple,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher tweeted on Sunday. The county is now in the red tier and the limit for the purple tier — the state’s most restrictive tier — is 7.0 cases per 100,000 residents.

Fletcher pointed to positive unadjusted case rates over six days (Oct. 11-16): 6.9 out of 100,000 residents, to 7.2 to 7.3 to 7.4 to 7.7 and 7.8, respectively.

Fletcher and Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten held an emergency meeting Friday to “sound the alarm” as the future case rate appears to cross into the purple tier of the state’s four-tier reopening system.

With the state’s monitoring system having a seven-day lag, the adjusted case rate of positive COVID-19 tests is 6.8 per 100,000 residents, up from 6.5 in the previous assessment.

“We are still in the red tier, but it is too close for comfort,” Wooten said Friday.

San Diego County public health officials reported 380 new COVID-19 infections Monday, raising the region’s total case count to 52,735. No new deaths were reported Monday, and the death toll remains at 853.

Of the 8,850 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average percentage of positive cases to 2.7%, far below the state-set target of less than 8%

Of the total cases, 3,770 or 7.1% have been hospitalized, with 872 — or 1.7% — spending at least some time in an intensive care unit.

No new community outbreaks were reported Monday. In the past seven days, 31 community outbreaks were confirmed, well above the trigger of seven or more in a week’s time.

A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

The county uses community outbreaks to get a larger sense of the pandemic locally, but the state does not include the statistic in its weekly report.

Wooten said 95% of the county’s cases were not related to a marked community outbreak, a clear indicator the illness has spread throughout the county.

–City News Service

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